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LDP to propose first reorganization of Japanese government ministries and agencies since 2001

Kyodo

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party decided Thursday to propose the first reorganization of ministries and agencies since 2001, including the splitting up of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The plan is aimed at beefing up policymaking ability while adapting to contemporary needs. The current structure of 13 ministries and agencies is seen by advocates of the plan as unfit for properly responding to changes in social and economic situations.

The LDP Administrative Reform Promotion Headquarters, headed by former minister in charge of administrative reform Akira Amari, is expected to compile a proposal and submit it to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as early as this month.

The plan follows the emergence of a series of scandals involving central government entities, including the Finance Ministry’s altering of official documents.

In the upcoming proposal, the LDP office plans to enumerate a series of challenges and problems with the current system by interviewing senior officials of the ministries and agencies.

The prospective reform could be a major issue ahead of the party’s leadership race in September, in which Abe and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba are expected to run.

The mammoth Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare was established in 2001 through the merger of the former Health and Welfare Ministry and Labor Ministry as part of an overall government reorganization. It handles issues related to social welfare, health care, child rearing, employment and labor.

Regarding labor issues, the ministry had previously focused on improving working environments and conditions, including wage hikes, but is now meant to improve the productivity of each worker amid labor shortages due to the country’s declining birthrate and graying population.

A spate of scandals involving the ministry is also behind the debate over its possible split. Most notably, the now-defunct Social Insurance Agency, a unit under the ministry, failed to keep proper records of more than 50 million pension accounts.

During the most recent Diet session through late July, the ministry drew criticism for presenting data with numerous errors to lawmakers. The data was designed to promote the Abe administration’s push to reform work styles.